The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday dismissed a plea to remove PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz as a vice president of the party and ruled that she was eligible to hold the position.
A three-member bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) retired Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza Khan disposed of a petition filed by PTI lawmakers, including Farrukh Habib, Maleeka Bokhari, Kanwal Shauzab and Javeria Zafar, against her appointment.
The ECP ruled that Maryam, who is currently in the National Accountability Bureau's (NAB) physical remand, cannot be appointed as the acting president of the party and that she should not accept any functional party position.
Reacting to the ECP's ruling, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said that PTI had gone to the ECP with the petition for "cheap publicity".
"Maryam Nawaz does not require any position or designation to help the people of Pakistan," she said, adding: "Maryam's services for the restoration of the Constitution and law is not hidden from anyone [...] she stayed behind for five years and worked on health and education along with [former prime minister] Nawaz Sharif."
The party spokesperson said that the current government does "small things" like the petition for which they had received a response from the election commission today.
Meanwhile, Maryam's lawyer Barrister Zafarullah said that there was no such condition in Pakistani law that restricted an individual from holding a party position.
While speaking to the media, he said that Maryam will remain vice president of PML-N as the ECP had disposed of PTI's petition.
Maleeka Bokhari, a PTI MNA and one of the petitioners, while reacting to the verdict stated that the ruling party was of the view that the ECP decision is "contrary to" the judgement of the Supreme Court in the Zulfiqar Bhutta case.
In one of a series of tweets, she said the PTI reserved its right to challenge the ECP ruling "before the competent forum".
"ECP’s today’s judgment, as reported in the media, confirms that Ms Maryam Nawaz having been convicted, can only hold a position in her party which is non-functional. According to the ECP, the post of vice president in PML-N is a non-functional post.
"This means that Maryam Nawaz as vice president of PML-N cannot hold any jalsa or liaise with any other political party or enter into any 'function' with regard to her party," Bokhari wrote.
In their petition, the PTI lawmakers contended that Maryam could not hold any party position as she was convicted by a court of law on July 6, 2018, in a corruption case (Avenfield reference), filed by NAB.
The ECP had on Monday reserved its judgement in the case for the second time. It had first reserved it on Aug 1 and had set Aug 27 as the date for its pronouncement. But in an unusual move, the commission deferred the judgement, asking the counsel for both sides to assist it on whether or not the bar on a convict from holding office of the president of a political party also applies to the vice president, in the light of a recent judgement of the Supreme Court.
On Monday, PTI’s counsel Hassan Maan had argued that Section 203 of the Elections Act should be read with Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution. Alluding to Jehangir Tareen's case, he said a PTI lawmaker from Punjab lost his party position on the basis of the same principle which barred disqualified leaders from holding any party office.
Meanwhile, the PML-N lawyer said some political parties were headed by their presidents while others were headed by chairmen or emirs. He said that the individuals with authority mattered, pointing out that vice presidents did not have any power.
He said the Supreme Court’s judgement also specifically mentioned party heads and asked the ECP to dismiss the petition filed by the PTI lawmakers.
Petition against Maryam's appointment
Following Maryam's appointment as PML-N vice president on May 3, PTI lawmakers had challenged her appointment in the ECP contending that she could not hold any party position as she was convicted by a court of law on July 6, 2018, in a corruption case.
The PML-N leader, on the other hand, had requested the ECP to dismiss the plea, arguing that there was no restriction in the Constitution and Election Act on a convicted person holding a party’s vice presidency.
In its judgement on the Avenfield apartments reference, an accountability court had sentenced former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to rigorous imprisonment of 10 years, Maryam to seven years and her husband, retired Captain Mohammad Safdar to one year.
The accused were also disqualified from contesting election or holding public office for 10 years to be reckoned from the date they are released after serving the sentence and they shall not be allowed to apply for or to be granted or allowed any financial facilities in the form of a loan for 10 years from the date of their conviction within the meaning of Section 15 of National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.
On Sept 19 last year, the Islamabad High Court suspended the NAB court’s decision in the Avenfield reference.
Subsequently, NAB challenged the suspension, but the Supreme Court dismissed its plea.